There's one household item that recurs in at least one reader's money-saving proposal each week. And that's ... vinegar. The acidic by-product of a secondary fermentation of wine, cider or malt, it has a myriad uses and can be made from any naturally occurring fruit or sugar.
All natural and environmentally friendly, vinegar has spawned its own canon of literature: Just for starters consider "The Healing Powers of Vinegar," "The Vinegar Book," "Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile & Very Good Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of" and "Great Uses for Vinegar." The latter, available free online, suggests using it for your "laundry, shoes, carpets, your elbows and feet, cars, floors, wood, and linoleum," among other applications.
The literature describes the liquid variously as a neutralizer, a cleaner, a condiment and a preservative.Claims for it include healing powers and also that it "will give your family an added sense of confidence and cleanness."
Here are a couple of its economical uses according to our readers:
Vinegar for all that ails you: Barb Cathcart, a veritable treasure trove of cost-cutting measures, suggests buying an inexpensive cut of beef, like a shoulder cut, and adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar for every pound. "Place it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge overnight and your meat will be very tender when you cook it," she writes.
DebbiSu Cassady uses white vinegar in the rinse of her clothes washer. It also softens clothes and makes your towels and dish cloths absorbent, she advises. That gives it a leg up over fabric softeners, which also have associated perfumes ---- "even the ones that say fragrance-free, always have some perfume in them." Depending on the size of your washing machine, she recommends using from 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle.
And speaking of substitutes: C. Neal Abrahamson from Mathews County saves half the cost of Mr. Bubbles daily automatic shower spray by buying the Tilex refill bottle and refilling the original empty Mr. Bubbles.
Soap is what you make it: A Newport News reader says that 60 years ago, her mother told her to take the wrapper off bars of soap and let the soap dry out. "It will last much longer if you do that, so I buy when it's on sale and do that," she says.
In Hampton, Inge Wittmier uses a different solution. "I save little bits of face soap and put them in a soft-soap dispenser and add a little water. I wash my hands a lot," she explains.
Buy in quantity: Abrahamson, self-described as a tightwad, recommends buying big in order to save. For example, when changing the oil in your car, buy a 5-quart jug instead of the 1-quart bottles for an estimated saving of $5. And, buy laundry detergent in a 300-ounce size, he urges.
Send your savings tips, keeping them brief, to email@example.com or by mail, labeled On the Cheap, to Prue Salasky, Daily Press, 7505 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23607. To find other tips, go to twitter.com and follow onthecheap or join in the conversation at the HRTownSquare forum, dailypress.com/talkcheap.